BOISE -- Safe and sober living houses fill a huge need for people struggling with addiction and alcoholism in our community.
On Monday, a new six-bedroom sober living home with a unique concept opened in Boise, off Maple Grove Road and Franklin Road.
River Sober Living is supporting men through their journey of recovery by bringing them together with a common bond of sustaining sobriety through personal and spiritual growth. But there's something different about this house - and River's approach to safe and sober living.
Founder Brandt Gibson spent years in and out of about 10 different safe and sober houses in Boise and outside of Idaho.
"I had an amazing experience in sober living houses until I came to Boise, and my experience was not so good," Gibson said.
He opened River Sober Living with the hope that it would be more of a home than just a place to stay, that the men living here would take pride in a safe, healthy, clean and zero-tolerance environment. The four words that define their vision are: accountability, peer support, family engagement and growth.
"They need that accountability of zero tolerance: if they drink or use [drugs], they're not going to have a place to live right now," Gibson added.
That rule is enforced through a full-time live-in house manager and through peer support and brotherhood. But the main differentiation between River and other sober living houses in our area is that River Sober Living doesn't accept applications from individuals currently on parole or supervised probation. Residents undergo background checks, and while River accepts residents with a prior criminal record, they may not have a recent violent history, arson charge or sex offense on their records.
"We are providing something brand new into a highly stigmatized segment," Gibson said. "That operational guideline of not accepting those applications does many things for us."
Gibson says through this operational guideline, residents have the common goal of being self-motivated to sustain sobriety and repair their lives through spiritual and personal growth. He says River Sober Living is a place that loved ones and treatment centers can confidently refer the individual who is struggling with addiction and alcoholism.
It's not discrimination, Gibson says. In fact, he's spent time behind bars. But many people typically think sober houses are halfway houses, he says.
"We want to be able to say that under no circumstance will there be armed parole officers coming by to do bed checks. Under no circumstance will you be housed with somebody that's possibly a recent violent felon and you have no idea what their history is," he added.
The business and everything inside the home is privately funded through what Gibson calls his "silent partner". Current residents are paying out of pocket to be here, like 28-year-old Fred Hidalgo who has struggled with addiction and homelessness for years.
"I got a second chance - or third or fourth chance," Hidlago said. "I can't wait to give this house my best."
His case manager told him to check out River Sober Living.
"The rent is great, it's clean, it's homey, it's welcoming. It's everything that I was praying for, honestly, and it became a reality," Hidalgo said. "For guys who are serious about sobriety, this is the right place to come to."
And Gibson says residents can stay as long as they want.
While there are dozens of safe and sober houses in the Treasure Valley listed on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's website, the houses don't actually need licensing in Idaho.
Gibson is waiting to hear back about credentialing through BPA Health, which would allow him to accept residents who are state-funded.
If this 10-person house is successful and their partnerships and collaborations with local organizations and businesses go well, Gibson hopes to open several more houses in the Treasure Valley within the next couple of years.
For more information about River Sober Living, visit its website.